Interview: Marty Natalegawa
What are the main obstacles to achieving the ASEAN integrated economic community by 2015?
MARTY NATALEGAWA: The concept of integrating and synergising an economic community of 10 sovereign nations, all of which have their own economic concerns and priorities, is fundamentally challenging. However, ASEAN long ago recognised the importance of achieving this objective. The alternative, i.e. not integrating, would have been detrimental to our economic prosperity. With the rise of China and India and the continued strength of Japan, the competitive landscape has expanded dramatically. For ASEAN to maintain a competitive advantage it is crucial that we develop policies that not only play on our individual abilities, but also help us to complement one another’s strengths.
This in itself will be a difficult task, but when you take into account the need for equitable development — where each country feels they are benefitting from being a part of the system — economic integration becomes even more challenging. Regardless of the obstacles, globalisation is not simply something we can choose to opt out of. Our individual economic and social development will greatly depend on our collective ability to compete on a global level.
What role can Indonesia play on the world stage, given its status as a secular, populous Muslim nation enjoying good relations with both East and West?
NATALEGAWA: Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world, as well as the third-largest democracy. We are a nation that embraces religious tolerance and ranks modernisation and development as two of our greatest priorities. Our success story is relevant not only among ASEAN nations, but also for countries in North Africa and the Middle East.
Recently we have seen how issues of governance, economics and human rights can become security issues that could potentially bring about destabilisation. It is therefore our responsibility to try to share the lessons we have learned during our own democratic transformation, so that other nations may benefit from our experiences, struggles and achievements.
How is Indonesia using its influential position as the 2011 Chair of ASEAN to augment the economic and political status of the region?
NATALEGAWA: We are keen not simply to chair ASEAN, but to exercise constructive leadership. We want to effect change and to direct ASEAN along a certain path.
Our first priority is to make significant progress toward achieving an integrated ASEAN community by 2015.
Specifically, we want to improve coordination among ASEAN countries in economics, socio-cultural affairs and security. ASEAN has already put the foundations in place in terms of various documents, declarations and statements. The map has been laid out and the time for implementation and real action is now. That is why, when the conflict between Thailand and Cambodia arose this past year, we took concrete measures to help facilitate a resolution rather than remaining silent. We put into practice the commitments and promises that all ASEAN community members have made.
This leads us to our second priority, which is to ensure that we continue to maintain a peaceful and benign regional atmosphere. This has been a key ingredient in ASEAN’s drive to achieve economic prosperity.
Our final priority is to create a strategy beyond 2015.
This is where the theme of our chairmanship, “ASEAN Community in a Global Community of Nations”, becomes apparent. We laid down a 10-year map that will begin a process whereby ASEAN will speak with greater cohesion and collectiveness on issues both regional and global. It is insufficient for ASEAN to be a community unto itself and is no longer acceptable to help maintain peace and stability solely within the immediate region. ASEAN must project its collective voice at the international level, as currently ASEAN countries contribute only at a national or bilateral level. With greater cohesion and coordination we can bring positive change and contribute beyond our own individual strengths.
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